The Forgotten History of Thanksgiving

Olivia Hood

The Forgotten History of Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is known for its ungodly amounts of food, festive autumn decorations, and semi-annual meetings with extended family. For many, it is a time of celebration, joy,  and gratitude, hence the “thanks” in the name. However, what is far lesser known is the truth of the holiday, and its less joyous origins., an educational platform for informational activism and outreach, sheds light on the reality of Thanksgiving, in which there was never a happy reunion between the Native Americans and pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachucettes. It is a wide misconception that there was a blissful and celebratory feast between the pilgrims and members of the Wampanoag tribe in response to their fateful meeting. 

The truth is that the people of the Wampanoag tribe were never even invited, they were only ever present as an army of around 90 men sent in response to the sound of gunshots, which were a part of the pilgrim celebration. 

Along with this, on the first meeting between the tribe and the pilgrims, the colonists proceeded to steal from Wampanoag winter provisions and robbed the graves of many, just mere days before. 

Wamsutta Frank James, a Wampanoag activist, shares the fact that “the Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod for four days before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors and stolen their corn and beans.”

The two people groups eventually formed an alliance, on the sole basis that the native population had been decimated by the European originated diseases, in the interest of survival. Following this “Thanksgiving celebration”, many natives were enslaved, imprisoned, and brutally killed. shares that there were also several larger scale conflicts such as the Pequot Massacre of 1636, and the beheading of the Wampanoag leader Metacom in 1676. 

Christine Nobiss, an indigenous peoples activist, has formulated her own modification of the holiday, fittingly named Truthsgiving, in order to honor the true history of Thanksgiving. Bustle, an online information source, shares this, as well as Christine’s thoughts leading up to her decision in their op-ed. shares on ways to be respectful and provide outreach during this season, which also happens to fall in November, National Native American History Month. This includes speaking in respectful ways and celebrating native foods, as well as donating to informational sources.

In this upcoming Thanksgiving season, there is much to look forward to. Found in the form of a variety of autumn flavors and dishes, time spent with family and friends, and a general time to relax and celebrate the season. However, at the same time, it is equally as important to honor the history of the holiday, and recognize its truth.